Happy Spring!

Looking out the window you might not know that spring is officially here.  Yes, Mother Nature seems to be at her spring cleaning and is sweeping out all the remaining snow from every nook and cranny but we are Mainers and have come to expect a good spring snow storm.  We are not about to let it stop us from celebrating!

There is much to look forward to at the library and some great events that will take place in the library’s lovely gardens.  Be sure to keep an eye out for details so you can join the fun…

Until then, here are some inspirations for spring activities that you and your children can enjoy no matter what the weather conditions:

Happy Spring!

A Snowy Bird Feeder

Our next bird feeder has been inspired by one of our favorite books: 
Stranger in the Woods.

With our current weather, I’d say it’s perfect timing.  Here’s how to do it: Build a snow man, woman, dog, elephant… whatever you like.  Add a carrot or orange nose; some nut eyes, mouth and buttons; and sprinkle with bird seed.  Get creative and have fun.  

So get outside and play in the snow.  The birds will thank you!

Here’s a little inspiration to get you going:

1.   2.  3.  4.

For the Birds

Did you know that February is National Bird-Feeding Month?

It was established in 1994 as way to publicize the importance and benefits of helping out our feathered friends.

Why February?  This is traditionally the hardest month for wild birds to find food sources as well as water and shelter. 

I can’t think of a better month to show our love for the birds that are so important to our gardens and environment!  If you would like to celebrate with us and help keep our little friends fed throughout the month, we will be posting a simple DIY bird feeder each week that you can do with your children and hang outside.

To kick it off, here’s a simple hanging feeder:

birdseed favors

3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup water
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
3 Tbsp corn syrup
4 cups bird seed
Combine flour, water, gelatin, and corn syrup in a large bowl.  
Add bird seed and mix well.
Spray the inside of a cookie cutter with cooking spray  (we found a 2-4″ size worked best)
Fill the cookie cutter with the bird seed mixture and press down firmly (the firmer it is, the better it will stay together)
Make a hole near the top (but not too close)
Carefully remove cookie cutter 
Let dry for 6-8 hours
Loop a 10″ length of jute through the hole and hang outside for birds to enjoy!

Let us know how yours turned out…

Nature Crafts

As I look at the calendar and think about the upcoming holidays, I’m also starting to think of snow.  It’ll be here soon.  But I still want to hold on to the beauty that the fall season has to offer.  I’m not quite ready to slip into winter.

If you are feeling the same, here are some wonderful nature crafts that would put all those pressed leaves, collected acorns and pinecones, and miscellaneous treasures from nature to creative use:

Fall Leaves Window Display

Wild Kingdom
Magical Nature Creatures

Fairy Tea

Leaf People


Nature Mandalas

Be sure to also check out the fall leaf and seed activities in the children’s area during your next visit to the library.


Seeds of Fall

Autumn is such a beautiful season here in New England and a great time to enjoy nature’s wonders.  

Upon first glance, our gardens may already seem to be starting their winter slumber.  There just doesn’t seem to be much going on.  But, take a closer look…

Plants are hoping to send off their seeds before their long rest.  Explore the library garden and you’ll find all sorts of interesting seeds: parachutes, exploders, hitchhikers, and winged-seeds.  There are even seed pods that sound like a rattle!

Here are some great books about seeds that you and your child can read together:  

A Seed is Sleepy by Dianna Hutts Aston
Seeds, by Ken Robbins
Flip, float, fly : seeds on the move, by JoAnn Early Macken

And The Field Studies Council has a simple and informative page with a helpful graphic.  

If you would like to do a study of seeds with your children, here are some activity printables:

seed dispersal
animals & seeds
types of seeds

Now get outside and explore!  

We’d love to hear about your experience exploring our garden and learning about fall’s seeds.

Did you miss it?

If you weren’t able to join us for the Nature Journaling workshop for adults or if you are interested in learning more about nature journaling, check out the slide presentation from the workshop.  And you’ll definitely want to also check out these great resources:

Nature Journaling Resources


  • Keeping a Nature Journal, Clare Walker Leslie
  • The Nature Connection: An Outdoor Workbook …, Clare Walker Leslie
  • Nature Journaling: Learning to Observe and Connect With the World Around You,  Charles E. Roth
  • Hands-On Nature, Jenepher Lingelbach


Drawing Resources


  • Illustrating Nature: Right-Brain Art in a Left-Brain World, Irene Brady
  • (The New) Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, Betty Edwards
  • The Zen of Seeing, Frederick Franck

Happy journaling!

Anyone can…

If you enjoy being outside, if you appreciate the beauty of nature, if you would like to gain a deeper understanding of the natural world, then please join us at the Topsham Public Library for our very first Nature Journaling workshop for adults.

If you would like to make time to slow down; if you want to enjoy the present moment; if you would like to explore an outlet to fulfill your creative energies, you will want to come to the library Saturday the 29th at 1:00pm.

There are no prerequisites for attending.  There are no special talents or skills needed.  You are only asked to come with an open mind and the desire to see the wonder.


Nature Journaling Workshop for Adults

Please join us at the Topsham Public Library for our first nature journaling workshop for adults:

During this workshop you will learn:

What a nature journal is, what to include, 
and the various styles;

The benefits of keeping a nature journal;

the “art of observation”, and more.

Intrigued?  Join us to discover the joy of nature journaling!  
We hope to see you then…


I just read an article called “What Makes a Successful Place” on the Project for Public Spaces website. You can find the article here: Their PlaceMaking blog is listed on our blog list.

The article has a good graphic that can be used to evaluate public spaces.

Something to aim at. The article made me feel that we’re pointed in the right direction and had pointers on how to adjust our aim.


About the Children’s Garden

What makes a place a “children’s garden?”  Colorful flowers and features to engage all the senses are certainly high on the list. It might have a theme that appeals to children, or it might include whimsical plants with unusual shapes. It should certainly attract little creatures, such as birds, bees and butterflies, that delight little people.  

The plants should be suited to their location and not require large inputs of water or chemicals to maintain. Nor should they require the use of herbicides or pesticides. Overuse of resources and  toxins today leaves a debt of damage that will be paid by the very people the garden is for.  

The Topsham Public Library Children’s Garden was designed with all of these features in mind. It is a rainbow garden, roughly mimicking the sequence of colors in the rainbow. It starts with reds and pinks, moves through the warmer colors of yellow and orange, continues into the green section (with many white-flowering plants), and ends with cool blues and purples. My children think I should put the purple coneflowers in the pink section. They may be right, but the plants are called PURPLE coneflowers, so purple.

The plants you see in the garden, with very few exceptions, are highly drought tolerant and tough – necessary features for this hot, dry, windy site with poor, sandy soil. During the summer the garden gets watered about once per month. While this is more than enough for most of the plants here, some of the less drought-tolerant species will not look as spectacular as they otherwise might. We think this is a reasonable trade-off for a garden that uses fewer precious resources.

Plants of different textures, smells, and shapes populate the garden. The flowering panicles of the prairie dropseed grass smell like vanilla. Leaf forms range from the soft and fuzzy leaves of lamb’s ear to the spiky yellow and green leaves of the yucca plant. Bright blue spheres of globe thistle dot the top of the garden in mid summer. Gayfeather sends out long shoots of flowers resembling fireworks.

You would be hard-pressed to visit the garden without seeing butterflies and bees busy at work. One plant, commonly known as butterfly weed, is among the only food sources used by monarch butterfly caterpillars. In fall, goldfinches visit the dried seed-heads of coneflowers and black-eyed susans.

In its short lifetime, this garden has battled a variety of pests. Most noteworthy was a fearsome attack of Asiatic Garden Beetles in 2011 which severely damaged nearly one third of the plants. Faced with the ruin of the garden it was tempting to spray a pesticide. Instead, we replaced a number of plants with ones the beetles were less attracted to and we left some in that had less severe damage to see what the next year would hold.  

As with every interaction with the natural world, the garden is a work in progress and continually evolving.

Sarah Wolpow

Garden Designer
Thistlegaard Perennial Gardens